Last night’s court decision halted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because the District Court for the Northern District of California concluded that the agency erroneously—or arbitrarily and capriciously—determined that DACA was illegal.
Pointedly, the challenge was not of the Trump Administration’s ability to rescind an executive order. Instead, the challenge was over the rescission of the administrative practice of “deferred action” implemented by DHS. Arguably, this effectively allowed a federal court to review the decision pursuant to administrative law. Of course, DHS asserted that judicial review of the action is unlawful and that immigration law doesn’t allow for judicial review of this subject; arguments which were not persuasive to this court, but could arguably win on appeal.
The standard of review that governs judicial review of administrative actions is the “arbitrary and capricious standard.” In reviewing the action, the court basically asks a bunch of questions about how the agency made their decision. If they find that the agency’s actions were arbitrary and/or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or not based in accordance with law, they can “set aside” the action.
A somewhat tenuous analysis centered around the court’s conclusion that the Fifth Circuit “seemingly approved” of DACA in a previous case that involved the discretionary denials of DACA relief. The court also suggested that further inquiry is warranted to see whether the Trump Administration was planning to use the rescission of DACA as a bargaining chip for wall funding.
Ultimately, this court granted provisional relief to current DACA holders because they believe that a decision on the merits of the case will be successful and because in the meantime, the plaintiffs are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction.
For now, the DACA program is back up and running, except that there can be no new DACA applications (renewals are okay), they ended the advance parole feature, and anyone denied a DACA renewal can challenge it.